52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 1 (Fresh Start)
So, I joined this genealogy project consisting of year long, weekly prompts about my ancestors and it seems pretty cool and so today I receive the first prompt: Fresh Start and I thought: what does that mean?
I know that most people doing this are probably not polytheists and are probably going to choose to write about something new they discovered about a particular ancestor, or something relevant like that and I thought about doing the same thing, except the current state of my ancestor shrine really has me moving in a different direction. Namely, it’s a mess. One of my goals this year is to get back to where I was two years ago with my ancestor work, when my shrine was like a living extension of my heart, a vital, vibrant seat of communion between me and my dead. I’m not sure where things went awry (actually I am. We had a horrible, absolutely horrible contractor working on our home that we had to fire for sheer incompetence and during the course of his tenure here my ancestor room became cluttered. (1) He brought such disorder and pollution into the house I could not work there. I never actually recovered from that).
It really reminds me that honoring the dead was so much more difficult for me at the beginning, years and years ago than honoring the Gods. Gods are, well, Gods and as such the level of respect I have for Them is much, much greater than what I bear for any human being no matter how beloved and for me, that is how it should be. The problem, in those early years, was not actually that, but rather two-fold: I could sense/hear the Gods so much more strongly than my ancestors and Odin was and is overwhelming in so many ways that early on there wasn’t much room for anything else and also, I don’t much get along with my living family. That’s gotten a lot better over the years partly at the push of my adopted mom and partly at the push of my ancestors (they do tend to like to put the living house in order) but twenty years ago it was a far, far different thing and the thought of actually honoring people I’m related to was vastly unappealing for all I knew it had to be done. It took awhile to learn to love them, but I did and they’ve sustained me through more things than I can name. I don’t think I’d realized until quite recently how lax I’d become in my ancestor veneration. It’s not an insurmountable gulf, but it is something that I need to recommit myself to bettering over the next year.
So, I set myself some goals for the next couple of months around this issue. I want to completely scour and clean my ancestor room and shift some of the furniture around – I’m going to need help with that, I think, but I have a friend who has amazing spatial sense. He can look at furniture and tell me with 100% accuracy whether something will fit in a particular space. He’s agreed to help me sort it out physically. Then I want to totally take apart and redo my ancestor shrine. This takes at least four days usually longer. My ancestor space when it is in good working order takes up three of four walls floor to ceiling. When it’s in good condition it takes the better part of a week to totally redo and it’s in anything but good condition now so I’m estimating at least a couple of weeks’ work with that. After that, it’s merely a matter of submitting myself to the discipline of regular offerings and prayers again – that at least I’ve been doing to some degree, though not as I ought to have over this past year.
It’s an opportunity to reconsider what this part of my practice means, why it is so fundamental, and the role each of my ancestors plays in helping me maintain right relationship with the Gods. This whole experience over the past year has really shown me how easy it is to take for granted those relationships which we assume to be solid. The moment I ceased concerning myself with tending my ancestral work is the moment it started falling apart, assuming it would be ok to let it go for “just a little bit.” There’s a reason that the word cultuscomes from the Latin colo, colere, colui, cultum – to till, tend, nurture. All devotional relationships have to be nurtured. Hell, all relationships have to be nurtured, devotional or simply the human ones we also cherish. There’s a lovely line from the Havamal that counsels friends to visit each other often and exchange gifts often too in order to strengthen the friendship (stanza 41). It holds for devotion too and that I think has been the lesson my ancestors have really driven home these last few months. Now, it’s time for me to pick myself up, dust my ancestor shrine off and get back to the work of ancestral devotion. #52ancestors
- To give an example, lest you think I’m exaggerating this man’s level of gross incompetence, he was creating a shrine nook in one of the rooms. All looked well from inside…that is until we went outside by chance and saw that he’d driven the nails through the siding of the house from the inside. The kicker was coming outside and seeing him sawing wood, not on a sawhorse like a normal, competent contractor, but on the hood of my fucking car. Fired immediately. If you’re in the dutchess county area, I have an awesome contractor now who is an angel and just an amazing human being. His work is pristine. If you ever need a referral I have one. If you want a warning in the Long Island area about whom to avoid, I got that one for you too. Just email me.